There was a time when the Internet was used by just academics, governments and a few major corporations as a way of sharing information. The data was very intentionally public and was intended for consumption by all.
Now of course the picture is much different. Few may have foreseen just how quickly the Internet would be adopted in our homes and businesses and just what we’d be doing with it. The ways in which we use the Internet has changed drastically. We now use it for all manner of transactions, like banking, shopping and entertainment. Many of these activities are no longer things that we would like to be public.
Adding security to the Internet has long been an option but only recently is it becoming more of a standard. Web addresses used to run over HTTP, which means that information is transmitted unsecured, allowing anyone to intercept it between its source and its destination. More and more, site owners are switching to HTTPS, which encrypts the data between the users offering another level of security.
HTTPS is somewhat effective, but still won’t do much good to those who are really intent on seeing what you’re doing online, especially those with unlimited resources behind them, like governments and large corporations.
That’s where VPNs come in. A Virtual Private Network adds another layer of protection on top of your internet connection by scrambling your data and routing it through anonymous servers, so that your data is secure and furthermore, not attributable to you specifically, especially if your VPN provider does not keep traffic logs.
The security protocols used by VPNs have been under scrutiny in the past couple of years after it was pointed out that many of them are insecure, possibly intentionally so as the US government sought to build back doors in to them to allow them to see what was going on whenever they chose.
One protocol that is still considered secure is OpenVPN and is the best option available today. The open-source nature of this project is exactly what allows it to be as secure as it is. With the code widely available to anyone who wants to see it, millions of eyes are scrutinising it, ensuring that there are no loopholes.
OpenVPN is now more easily deployed, largely as a result of its surge in uptake in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations. OpenVPN is now easily configurable on Macs, PCs, Linux and even your iPhone and Andriod.
It’s not about being paranoid and “protecting your civil liberties”. It’s about being sensible with what you do online. Consider whether you’d be content for everything you do on the internet to be seen by anyone. That goes beyond the sites you visit, but extends to passwords and sensitive information being visible as well as discreet information and communications about and between you and your family.
Times are changing and it’s time to improve your online security. Using an OpenVPN is currently the best way to achieve that. I personally use Private Internet Access and I’m very happy with their service and their price.